ALLFIE reassured on higher education finance, but concerns remain


Inclusive education campaigners have welcomed a government pledge that its plans for funding higher education will not exclude many disabled students from university.

Last week, in its response to the Browne report on the funding of higher education, the government announced that it would lend any “eligible” student the money to pay their tuition fees up front.

Universities and colleges will be able to charge £6,000 a year in higher education tuition fees, and in some cases up to £9,000 a year, with students not having to start paying back their loans until they earn at least £21,000 a year.

Students from poorer families will be entitled to a maintenance grant of up to £3,250 a year.

The Browne report recommends that the entitlement to student finance should be “determined by a minimum entry standard, based on aptitude”, and based on a score obtained by converting qualifications such as A-levels into points, with the government setting the minimum number of points every year.

The Alliance for Inclusive Education (ALLFIE) raised concerns that this could exclude many disabled students who currently access higher education by submitting a portfolio of work – rather than achieving certain qualifications – because of the barriers they face.

But the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) told Disability News Service that it had not accepted in full the Browne recommendation on eligibility for finance, and that all UK students who secure a higher education place would be eligible for funding.

Simone Aspis, ALLFIE’s campaigns and policy coordinator, welcomed the decision.

But she said ALLFIE was still concerned that the Browne report had failed to mention the extra costs – such as the extra expense of renting accessible housing – faced by many disabled students, when it discussed the £3,250 maintenance grant.

ALLFIE was also disappointed that the report failed to recommend that the new Higher Education Council be given an explicit duty to address the barriers faced by disabled students in accessing higher education.

Aspis said the Browne review was “a missed opportunity to think about widening access to disabled students” and that ALLFIE would now lobby the government to take account of its concerns.

A BIS spokeswoman said further details of its policies on the maintenance grant and the duties of the Higher Education Council would be laid out in a higher education white paper this winter.

8 November 2010